While most couples who are decorating homes grapple with issues of space and design, ad man Swapan Seth and his wife Shreya Seth had a slightly different challenge. “We have a lot of art that needs a lot of space, as well as simple clean lines to showcase it. But it was very important to not make the house look like a museum,” says Shreya.
Culture collectors: 1. The living room has a black, red and white theme. The chandelier is from Klove, New Delhi, and a lot of the furniture is from Proform, New Delhi; 2. Reyhaan wanted a Manchester United (Man U) room, but settled for just Man U quilts and is now happy with his green and yellow room; 3. The powder room echoes lines from one of Shreya’s favourite poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot.; 4. An installation by Vibha Galhotra in the dining room (on the left) and, on the adjacent wall, a large piece made by using a zillion customized matchboxes, the leitmotif of artist Prajjwal Choudhury; 5. Swapan and Shreya believe in rotating their artworks often. Here, they are in their study-cum-media room, which is painted crimson and showcases the family’s collection of black and white photographs.
The family has managed to tread that thin line exceedingly well and its duplex 6,500 sq. ft penthouse in Gurgaon, while serving as a platform for contemporary art from around the world, also has the warmth of a well-lived-in home. The family moved to its current penthouse less than six months ago, and Swapan didn’t see it until it was completed.
“The whole idea was to give it enough natural light and as much space. I don’t like clutter,” says Shreya. The large bay windows in the drawing room are, therefore, bereft of blinds and the home looks stunning after dusk. The furniture is contemporary and the colour scheme is red, black and white. Many of the lights are from Klove and are pieces of art in themselves. As Swapan says, “I go to a lot of houses where the art doesn’t go with the house. For me, art in the house is a lamp, a mirror.”
Many installations in the house are site-specific, and the artists come in and decide on the space in conjunction with Shreya. Since Swapan is “obsessive” about art, Shreya tends to accommodate a lot of it, but puts her foot down once in a while. “If I don’t like it, I will not put it up,” she says. While Swapan is responsible for the art you see, the attention to detail and subtle finish is courtesy Shreya. Awkward corners have been given the illusion of space thanks to mirrors; geysers and AC ducts have been cleverly encased in wood-panelled lofts; the staircase wall has the trademark Fornasetti wallpaper which makes quite a statement; the powder room mirror has lines from T.S. Eliot sandblasted on it; the glass partition overlooking the drawing room has a polka-dot design that was achieved quite by accident and which Shreya loved instantly. The effort to make it classy yet liveable is evident.
While their home didn’t always look like this, and “for the most part of our lives we had a contained art collection,” says Swapan, both concede that over time you tend to appreciate different things. Today, the home is an aesthete’s paradise, with their boys, Sirhaan, 11, and Reyhaan, 10, exposed to not only myriad forms of art, but also music and books. While Shreya feels her older son has quite an eye for design and often asks his opinion, Swapan says he never buys a piece without their consent. “It’s all theirs. They’re going to live longer with it.”
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